Had the 26 Chowchilla school children and their bus driver dematerialized? Had they been murdered? Reporter Morgan and detective Baugh (who was on the case) turn the ghoulish news flash from Madera County, California, into an engrossing, unsettling book. Their minutely assembled you-are-there account follows the actions of the terrified victims, nonchalant kidnappers, hysterical parents, and nonplussed authorities. Then, halfway through, the suspense eases as the plight of the victims is resolved, kids and bus driver clawing and heaving their way out of a buried truck where they had been interned. The rest is keen detective work and the trite biographies of the three perpetrators. Bland, affluent young men, they arouse a different kind of horror as it becomes clear that they felt no moral sense whatever of ""the malignancy of what they did."" James Schoenfeld, the most fathomable of the three kidnappers, whose diary is quoted at length, seems to have viewed their caper as a personal growth experience. Vague expectations of creating a movie script also played a part. By a miserable irony, Baugh and Morgan's book seems ripe for just that kind of exploitation.